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The History of Paradise Island

The Early Years
Paradise Island, home of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, has a long and somewhat sordid past. Thousands of years before its official discovery in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, the island was inhabited by self-proclaimed “island people” who called themselves the “Lucayans.” These original inhabitants were mistakenly referred to as “Indians” because Columbus initially thought he was in the East Indies when he arrived on the Caribbean shores. Despite his nominal mistake, Columbus did correctly recognize the island’s indigenous people as the warm, peaceful people that they were. Unfortunately, the history of Paradise Island did not remain peaceful for long.

Spanish Settlers
Paradise Island - Bahamas The Spaniards’ keen interest in Paradise Island was based on the possibility of discovering valuable ore in its soil, but their futile attempts to find gold quickly led them to search elsewhere. Due to their relentless capture of the island’s natives to work in the gold mines, within 25 years, the Lucayans no longer existed.

English Settlers
Charles I of England claimed the Bahamas as part of England in 1629; that same year he acquired the Carolina portion of the United States. This action would lead to the combined integration of both English and Southeast American influence on the history of Paradise Island.

The first English settlers in the Bahamas were called “The Company of Adventurers for the Plantation of the Islands of Eleutheria”. They were shipwrecked on a southern Caribbean island around 1647, while looking for a place to establish a Puritan colony. With no way of turning around, they were forced to adopt what is now “Eleuthera Island” as their home, and would eventually spread out to other Bahamian islands including Paradise Island.

The Golden Age of Piracy
Piracy had a significant impact on the history of Paradise Island. Nassau (dubbed Charles Town) saw its fair share of pirates during the 1600s and 1700s including the infamous Blackbeard, Anne Bonney, and Mary Read, just to name a few. These unscrupulous looters would lure ships close to shore, and then pounce and plunder. Much to their dismay, pirates were run out of town when England signed a peace agreement with the victims and sent in warships to expunge them from the island. The good crew’s motto was “Expulsis Piratis- Resituta Commercia,” meaning “Pirates Expelled - Commerce Restored.” It was at this point in time that the Bahamas became a British Crown Colony.

A Tropical Escape
Paradise Island has a long history of serving not only as a haven for vacationers and tourists, but also as a place of refuge for those escaping from the law. For example, many British loyalists fled to the Bahamas during the American Revolution, and during the Civil war, Confederates used the island as a conduit for transporting military equipment despite Union blockades. U.S. Prohibition attracted attention to the island yet again as American rumrunners shipped their contraband in through Nassau as well as from other parts of the Caribbean.

King Edward VIII renounced his kingship in 1940 to escape to Nassau and marry the woman he loved. The couple, who came to be known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, brought much controversy, but also glamour to the island which helped establish its fame as a super-popular tourist destination. Even in modern times, the island’s “escapist” reputation flourishes as it remains a hotspot for smugglers looking to sneak illegal substances and immigrants into the United States.

Self-Governance
Although the Bahamas declared its independence from England in 1973, it is still officially loyal to the Queen and remains part of the British Commonwealth. Paradise Island now thrives economically due to its appeal as a leading vacation spot, and its focus on offshore financial services.

 


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